12 Steps To A Healthier Staff Culture: Step 9

Posted by Tiffany Cooper

There is something therapeutic about sitting in a comfy chair with buttery popcorn, an ice cold drink, and a side of candy while losing yourself in a movie. The greatest plots are wrought with adversity that is miraculously and conveniently overcome in 120 minutes. If only it was that easy, however, real life doesn’t provide carefully crafted scenarios with contrived dialogue and ever-present mood music. Real life is unedited. Real life is messy.

I vividly remember the first time I felt the sharp sting of betrayal; pain would flood my heart in waves. On another occasion I experienced deep disappointment that left me asking many questions that could not be answered. It didn’t take me long to realize that adversity is an unavoidable part of life because we live in a fallen world inhabited by imperfect people. Ministry doesn’t make us immune to difficulties, challenges, or pain. Actually, ministry places us smack dab in the middle of life’s rollercoaster.

The moment I embraced adversity was the moment I no longer gave control to its’ potentially weakening power. Instead, I chose to use it to make me stronger. There is great triumph when, even in the midst of suffering, we allow God to do a great work in our lives. I truly believe that embracing the “plot twists” in life allowed me to effectively lead through adversity. There is great wisdom about leading through adversity in 1 Peter 5.

We lead by example. (vv. 1-3)
Leading by example is the most powerful tool we have when guiding others through adversity. Our dependence on God, our actions, and our words show others how to respond. Leading through adversity is not about me, it’s about shepherding the people that God has entrusted to my life. As women in ministry, we’re called to feed, protect, guide, nurture and care for our flock.

Be humble and seek Godly counsel. (vv. 5-6)
We are not all-knowing. We do not have all the answers. In fact, we don’t know what we don’t know. We gain great wisdom from Godly mentors who speak into our lives. Prayerfully consider the advice you’ve been given, line it up with scripture, and allow the Holy Spirit to direct your steps.

Cast your cares on God. (v. 7)
Casting our cares is a deliberate act that is vitally important if we’re going to effectively lead others. Charles Spurgeon used the illustration of a man who came to move your furniture, but he carried a huge and heavy backpack of his own. He complains that he finds it difficult to do the job of moving your furniture; would you not suggest that he would find it easier if he laid his own burden aside so that he could carry yours? In the same way, we cannot effectively do God’s work when we are weighed down by our own burdens and worries. Cast them upon Him, and then take up the Lord’s burden – which is light burden, and a yoke that fits us perfectly.

9 bResist the Enemy (vv. 8-9)
Satan wants to destroy us. We must be aware and resist his attempts. Resist the feeling that God has left us in the midst of our adversity. Resist the urge to retaliate against those who have hurt us and to “give our side of the story” to whoever will listen, this momentary release will discredit our integrity. Resist the urge to overlook our own weaknesses. Nobody is perfect. We are imperfect people who are in the process of being perfected. Resist the urge to give more power to our problems than to our victories.

God will make us strong. (vv. 9-10)
My heart leaps when I read about God restoring our strength after we have suffered a little while.
God will give us strength to lead through pain, strength to stand alone, strength to bless those who persecute us, strength to reflect Godliness and strength to defeat the enemy and finish our race.

If you are experiencing adversity today, I encourage you to embrace the beauty that can come from its’ ashes. Shift your focus, take its’ power, and use it for good. Remember, God uses adversity to perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle us. He may not complete his work in 120 minutes with special effects but he is faithful to his promises. May the God of all grace perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you today!

When adversity comes along your your path, do you run for cover or meet it head on? What steps do you need to take today to cast your cares on your Heavenly Father? Spend some time today reflecting on the difficult times you’ve faced and how God has used it for good.

12 Steps To A Healthier Staff Culture: Step 8

Posted by Brandi Wilson

Step 8One of my greatest struggles in ministry has been balancing leadership and friendship. One of my greatest blessings in ministry has been balancing leadership and friendship.

Putting yourself “out there” in ministry also means you’re putting your entire family “out there” as well. I’d be lying if I said friendship in ministry has always been easy. I have been hurt, and I have hurt others unintentionally, I’m sure. Despite the pain, I still choose friendship.

The reality is your leadership hat and your friendship hat will collide. And because of what we are called to do, your leadership hat will trump your friendship hat. Here are a few tips as you’re navigating friendships in leadership.

Assume the Best. Friendship chooses to believe the best in people – to give the benefit of the doubt. Friendship refuses to fill the unknown with negative assumptions. A good friendship focuses on the positive.

About three years ago, I was in a season where I felt overwhelmed and needed to work through some personal issues with a counselor. Without even realizing it, I had gone almost three weeks without even talking to Lori. I remember which street I was driving down when she called me to check in. In that moment, I realized that in my disfunction I had distanced myself from her. But the best part of this story is when Lori said, “I knew you needed some space.” She didn’t allow negative thoughts to run rampant in her mind and eat away at our friendship. She didn’t follow a negative thought pattern like “She obviously doesn’t appreciate me enough… why waste my time trying to reach out to her and show her grace.” We need friendships that are forgiving and grace-filled. We need friendships that believe the best about us even and especially when we’re in a season of pain.

Authentic vs. Transparent. This was a game changer for me. Realizing that I am suppose to be authentically Brandi with everyone I come into contact with. When I’m grocery shopping, volunteering at my kids’ schools, talking to volunteers at church. I am called to authentically be myself in all relationships. However, I am not called to be transparent in every relationship I have. Transparency is reserved for a few close friends where trust has been established. It’s not that you don’t appreciate what all friendships have to bring to the table, but it’s also possible to crave community yet also crave your privacy.

8 bSurround Yourself With Defenders. Be a Defender. I truly believe that part of friendship, part of serving on a church staff together is choosing to speak up for one another. But the lines are easily blurred between what you choose not to repeat. Sometimes people need to be aware of what’s said for their own protection. Part of being a friend, a sister in Christ, is fighting a battle for your friend…even a battle they might not know exists. I don’t have to repeat everything to you… but I do have to protect you. Hearing everything negative that is said about you is tough so it’s wise to surround yourself with people you know are in it with you through the good and the bad. Look out for your fellow staff members and their spouses. If it’s not uplifting, think twice before you repeat it back to them. Loyalty is a term that is thrown around a lot these days. Being loyal doesn’t mean relaying all conversations that can destroy and cause hurt. It means being a friend who’s safe whether I’m around or not.

Even if you have close friends, you will probably go through seasons of isolation. There will be situations you can’t discuss, incidents that you can’t get your friend’s feedback on and frustrations that should be kept to yourself.

Relationships cause pain but they also cause laughter, growth and provide community. Having friendships is scary but living a life of isolation is even scarier. I hope I will always believe friendships are worth the risk. 

Have you found this aspect of friendship in ministry to be difficult? With whom are you transparent? Do you tend to be someone who gives friends the benefit of the doubt?

12 Steps To A Healthier Staff Culture: Step 7

Posted by Linda Seidler

Spending an extended period of time with anyone on this big green earth can create moments of tension and conflict. It happens in marriage. It happens with our kids. It happens in the work place, and get this… it can even happen in ministry. There, I said it.

I love being a church and ministry leader, and I love our staff. I really do. I’m sure you do, too.  However, if we’re being totally honest, there are moments when we, as ministry leaders, just don’t get along with every person at every moment of every day. 

Different personalities, different ideas, and different opinions are a part of every team, and although we come together for a common goal—the spiritual goal of introducing more people to Jesus—there are days when we don’t operate very spiritually, our signals get crossed, feelings get hurt, and we experience tension.

This is called real life ministry, ladies. Just laying it out—not faking it here.

So how do we lead well and strong and with grace and love when there is a clash of personalities or tension in the air? Although I haven’t mastered these as much as I’d like, I’m sharing some tips that have helped me, and I hope will help you, as you lead through the clash:

Expect and accept.

As leaders, we lead from a place of imperfection, and the people we lead are coming from that place also. So we need to constantly stay reminded that people are not perfect, and people are people. A strategy that helps me is to focus on this simple, common sense leadership approach: Expect and then accept. 

  • Expect imperfection in your ministry leaders and teams.
  • Expect others not to always get it right.
  • Expect a little bit of conflict to happen here and there.
  • Then accept the fact that you have a responsibility to lead them through it.
  • Accept that you are still in front leading the charge.
  • Accept the fact that God has strategically placed you in this position, and He will equip you to handle it. (Yes, you!)

So, now is not the time to bury your head in the sand and hide. Now is the time to stay alert, prepared and ready for the clash that may be happening now as well as in the future. 

Not uniform but unified.

There have been difficult leadership moments when I’ve truly felt that my life in ministry would be so much easier if I could just have clones that thought exactly like me, spoke exactly like me and operated exactly like me. Seriously, I have.  But that is not the place from where we lead.

Ministry is not intended to make us uniform; it is intended to make us unified!  First Corinthians 12:12 tells us, “There is one body, but it has many parts.” We are the many different parts that join together to operate as a united front with the common purpose and goal of introducing more and more to Jesus.

It can be so easy to become discouraged when we don’t get along, but try to keep this perspective—while we are not uniform, we are united together as one through God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

  • So continue to keep the mission and vision aligned at the center of your team.
  • Address moments of tension quickly so that differences don’t turn into difficulties.
  • And remind yourself often that leading a team is also managing the differences within the team to achieve the common goal.

7 bSeek God and wise counsel

I’m not sure if I can emphasize this enough. Go to God first, and seek his great wisdom through scripture and prayer.  And then—go to those in ministry who God has placed in your circle and who have already been there.  Don’t hesitate.  Just do it.

I recently experienced a tough moment in leadership, and my heart was hurt.  I was angry, and I did not feel very much grace and love.  So I quickly picked up the phone and called a friend who is also a seasoned pastor’s wife and who had experienced the same difficulty. She talked me through it.  She helped me work beyond my feelings and toward a solution. Her wisdom and insight was golden.

Remember, you are not alone on this journey. 

Please share an experience in how you’ve led without chemistry with another. What strategies have you used? What insight can you share? For further insight, read Ephesians 4:1-6; Ephesians 6; Proverbs 1:5, 11:14 and 12:16.)

Want to Win a Trip to Ireland?

Leading & Loving It is partnering with She Is Noble to highlight the fearless and courageous women in our lives. A Noble woman is one who works tirelessly, fearlessly, and without recognition to provide assistance, hope, or vision to those in her immediate community or around the world. We are looking for women, who on top of all the incredible things they do for their families, friends and careers, have gone outside of their immediate circle to do noble things for others. Do you know a Noble woman? Take 30 seconds to nominate her today and you could win a trip to Ireland for you and $10,000 for the inspiring woman in your life.

12 Steps To A Healthier Staff Culture: Step 6

Posted by Tamera Ford

We’ve all experienced the frustration that comes from not being heard. So when someone really listens to us, we feel like we matter. We all have that desire.

I’m not proud to say that I have faked attention when someone wanted my ear. I’ve also stumbled into the trap of letting my emotions get inflamed because the wrong words were used in their attempt to communicate. I was hearing their words, but I was not listening.

If we could all communicate in short, concise, meaningful, twitter worthy sound bites, the world would be a great place. But most people don’t communicate in tweets and it takes a concentrated effort to pay attention and really listen to what they are saying.

Hearing comes easy, being a listener takes effort.

Creating a safe atmosphere where those on our team trust that there is a genuine effort being made to listen not to object, convince or critique their thoughts…brings out the best they have to offer. And we want that and need that for our churches.

On my own journey to becoming a better listener, I have found that these four criteria help tremendously:

Receive: Listen to what they have to say without interruption.
Respect: Pay attention, stay engaged and value their thoughts.
Recap: Repeat back what was communicated to you.
Request: Ask questions and get more information if needed.

Galatians 5:15 warns that criticizing and attacking each other can destroy us. Even in the midst of strong disagreement there should be respect and honor.

Really listening and understanding what they are trying to say causes others to feel that they’ve have been heard and considered in a respectful manner. As leaders, its important to be great listeners, but we don’t have to listen to disunity. 

We’ve found that disunity occurs when the vision gets cloudy, boundaries are soft and people react without regard to honor and respect. When a conversation begins to expose disunity, we restate the vision and make it clear. If they are stumbling, it’s our job to clear the path. If they stop caring about the vision, they will begin caring about other things. 

6 b

Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Then the LORD replied: Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.”

We will have to reestablish boundaries. For my husband and me, one of our boundaries says “challenging the process is encouraged, challenging the vision/mission isn’t”. We respectfully make it known that the vision is not up for discussion but we do value their ideas and creativity on how to accomplish the vision. They are welcome to share concerns or constructive criticisms but we must remind them of their gifts and talents and encourage them to use them toward a solution.

Starting the conversation off by really listening is a clear indication that respect is being given, then if needed, guiding the conversation with a gentle reminder of vision and boundaries reminds everyone that respect is required.

Matt 7:12 (ESV) “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Food for thought…
How well do you listen?
How can you improve in your listening skills?
Are you creating a safe environment for your staff to be vulnerable and communicate without fear?
Have you set clear boundaries for your staff?
Is the vision clear? Are you setting the tone and focus?